Thursday, February 24, 2011

de Villiers fifty powers South Africa

de Villiers fifty powers South Africa
Imran Tahir picked up a four wickets
 on debut as West Indies squandered
a good platform to be all out for
 222 in Delhi © Getty Images

Tahir shines as West Indies implode

A new-look South African bowling unit kept a lid on a combustible West Indies, the spinners bowling a combined 29 overs for just 138 runs as West Indies imploded to be all out for 222 when, at one stage, 270 had seemed more likely. Imran Tahir had a debut to remember, picking up four wickets and striking at crucial moments to peg West Indies back on a pitch that displayed none of the demons that led to the abandonment of the last international game at this ground in December 2009. After the spinners had kept South Africa in control for much of the game, Dale Steyn returned at the death to ensure there would be no late fightback.
There was a time when whether South Africa could afford to play even a single specialist slow bowler was open to question, but they included no less than three frontline spinners at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Johan Botha, Tahir and Robin Peterson. The thoroughness of South Africa's gameplans and their willingness to utilise unorthodox tactics was in immediate evidence as for the first time in his career Botha opened the bowling.
The ploy paid off immediately as Chris Gayle, who might have been preparing himself for a barrage from Steyn and Morne Morkel, thrust his bat out at a flighted offspinner, the ball brushing the edge and nestling safely in Jacques Kallis's hands at slip.
Darren Bravo, who set the early tone with a couple of deftly glanced boundaries off Steyn, looked to impose himself on Kallis and slapped his first ball of the game disdainfully over wide mid-on. With Morkel getting the odd delivery to rise disconcertingly off the pitch, Smith offered solid support but did unfurl his trademark cut shot when given the chance.
Morkel's round-the-wicket offstump line troubled both left-handers at times but the luck appeared to be with West Indies and Bravo brought up a 55-ball 50 in the 16th over, his third in ODIs, and celebrated the milestone with a remarkable one-handed smite over long-on off Tahir. While his innings was peppered with such flamboyance, there was no over-indulgence from either Bravo or Smith and after the field was set back placement and earnest running were the order of the day. The century stand was brought up off 117 deliveries in the 20th over, and with West Indies starting to seize the initiative Smith turned to Botha.
Again the offspinner provided the breakthrough, slipping one past an uncertain flick to pin Bravo in front of middle and dismiss him for 73 despite a slightly desperate referral from the batsman. The wicket seemed to unsettle Smith and, after playing the spinners with aplomb for much of his innings, he pushed too early at a flighted legspinner from Tahir to present the bowler with a simple caught-and-bowled chance - and a wicket on debut.
Tahir struck again to remove Ramnaresh Sarwan before he had time to settle, and might have had a third wicket in the same over when Dwayne Bravo chipped back another return catch - but this time the bowler couldn't quite hold on. Backed into a corner and under pressure, Bravo responded with sixes off all three spinners but just as he and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were starting to flow a brainless piece of running put paid to their fightback. A reverse-sweep from Chanderpaul went straight to the man at short third man but inexplicably a run was called for and Bravo was easily run out for 40, the score 178 for 5 in the 38th over.
West Indies unravelled with alarming speed thereafter, their innings sliding swiftly into mediocrity after Chanderpaul, who had upped the tempo with a couple of thumping strikes, chipped Tahir straight to Peterson at long-off. Kieron Pollard's arrival at the crease caused an immediate ripple of excitement among a decent crowd of spectators, but Steyn returned to dismiss him for a golden duck with a skidding inswinger that struck the pad in front of middle and leg. Tahir had his fourth wicket when a wild swipe from wicketkeeper Devon Thomas ended up in JP Duminy's hands, running back from extra cover, and the tail proved no match for Steyn's pace and accuracy as the innings was wrapped up soon afterwards.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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